I have in mind right now two different sorts of people. Think of this as a spectrum, with lots of variety from one end to another.
On one side are people with a very clear passion and drive, often toward one specific thing. When they are asked "Who are you?", or "What are you passionate about?", they have a clear, instinctive answer. Or better yet--if you ask their close friends or associates, they'll give the answer for them.
On the other end of the spectrum are those who struggle to find what they're good at or what they're passionate about. They may have their hand in many things and find it difficult to pick one, or they may just not have a clear sense for what they care about and want to do. Perhaps they've been wounded, and this has made them think they're worthless or question whether they can be good at anything. Maybe they've made a bad decision or two and they wonder how to recover and get back on track.
The first group of people may struggle with tunnel vision. They may struggle to idolize their passion and forget that God works in many ways and in many seasons; it may be tempting to assert control rather than recognize Christ's lordship. The second group of people may struggle with self-doubt, fear, and productivity. They may hesitate to step forward and do good because they're afraid of committing to a wrong course of action.
Most of us fall somewhere in between these extremes, sometimes shifting back and forth daily. We sometimes feel that we clearly know who we are and what we want to be about. Other times we feel more confused or discouraged. While this is an inevitable part of being human, is there a way to regain some balance?
Union with Christ: the "one thing"
The answer is found in our union with Christ. Believers in Jesus are united to him in his life, death, and resurrection, and our one aim in life is to press into the knowledge of these things more and more deeply. As we do this, it reorients our desires, our fears, and our passions. The focused people find that they are able to give their passions to God rather than clinging to them as idols, and the unfocused people find affirmation, grace, and endless possibilities of good to be done, as well as freedom from the anxiety of making wrong choices.
There are many places in Scripture we can see this, but one in particular stands out: in Philippians 3, Paul recites his personal history and says that it is worth nothing (he uses a Greek curse word that we usually translate as "dung") compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. Even good things pale in comparison to the knowledge of Christ. This is what Paul presses towards:
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (3:10-11)
He makes the important point that it is a process, not an achieved state:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (3:12-14)
The "one thing" Paul does is to press on into the knowledge of Jesus. In other words, Paul wants all of his activities and thoughts, every day, to press more and more deeply into the knowledge of who Jesus is, what he has accomplished, and what that means now for Paul (and for all believers). That is what union with Christ is. We have been united to Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection, and what we will be in the future (resurrected and glorified, just like Jesus was--see 1 Corinthians 15) is not here yet, so we press on.
What does this look like for you and I?
Paul was a busy guy. He journeyed, founded churches, had conversations, taught, built tents, spent time in marketplaces and synagogues, preached, went to jail, got shipwrecked, all of that. When he talks about pressing into the knowledge of Jesus as "one thing," he's not saying he wants to stop doing all activities and simply spend time thinking about God. He's saying that he wants to adopt a particular perspective on every area of his life.
Jesus is Lord over every area of our lives--every thought, activity, passion, fear, sin, pursuit, question, failure, accomplishment, everything else. Our whole lives this side of eternity will be spent learning to really believe this--in other words, learning how to press into the knowledge of Christ in every area of our lives. As we do this, we find our perspective on everything transformed, so that we see our lives the way Jesus sees them.
Maybe you find yourself with a strong, singular passion for your life. Maybe you struggle to figure out what it is you want to do or should do with your life. The good news is that Jesus is calling you to himself from wherever you are--he wants to start working with you right now, in your normal, everyday life. Follow Paul's example in prioritizing the "one thing"--pressing on ever more deeply into the knowledge of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection--and you'll find that every area of your life is transformed. It will probably not be easy, but it will be good, and in Christ you will find a deep well of joy that can satisfy you in any season of life.